Traditional oil wrestling festival kicks off with record level participation
The historical event, which could not be held in 2020 due to the pandemic and was held with a one-third audience last year, kicked off with junior wrestlers competing on grass fields on July 1. The event will conclude with the final wrestling that will determine the chief wrestler on July 3.
Wrestling fans and domestic and international visitors flocked to the province to see wrestlers competing at a field in Sarayiçi, one of Edirne’s most crucial recreational sites.
“Last year, there were nearly 2,500 participants. We expect this number to exceed this year, and looking forward to nearly 3,000 wrestlers to register,” officials said.
This year, in Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling organized by the municipality, in addition to medals and cups, 75,000 Turkish Liras ($4,400) will be given to the “başpehlivan” (chief wrestler), 48,000 liras ($2,800) will be given to the runner up, and 25,000 liras ($1,400) will be given to the two wrestlers who will share the third place.
According to Kırkpınar rules, a wrestler has to win the chief wrestler title for three successive years in order to win the golden belt forever.
Two-time chief wrestler Ali Gürbüz, will become the eternal owner of the golden belt if he clinches the title this year.
“Since 1997, no wrestler has been the eternal owner of the golden belt. We believe there will be fierce struggles this year,” Edirne Mayor Recep Gürkan said.
“All of our hotels in our city are full on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as the 661st Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival starts,” said Gökhan Balta, the provincial head of Turkish Hotel Owners Association, adding that they have started to send guests to the districts from now on.
“We are hosting a very important sports and cultural event with the same excitement and enthusiasm. Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling is not just a sports competition,” said Edirne governor Kürşat Kırbıyık, reiteraing that the event, whose beginning date was accepted as 1361, the date of conquest of Edirne, has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.
In traditional oil wrestling, wrestlers wear leather pants, rub olive oil on their bodies and tackle each other on grass fields to be the last man standing to earn the title of chief wrestler and the right to wear the prestigious golden belt for a year.
Tracing its roots back to the 14th century, the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival, which is a three-day event, was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 on behalf of Türkiye.
The festival is believed to be one of the oldest sports in the world, having been practiced since the middle ages in the Balkans.